Hobart is really buzzing. There's a sophistication born of knowing who you are and what you're good at. A quiet confidence that Tassie can hold its own with the best in the world. Excellence, professionalism.
Plus an honesty and a down-to-earth realism too about a port town with all the industry associated with ships and the sea.
The city feels small and intimate, a wonderful mix of the past and the future. I love the sandstone, the Georgian architecture, the colonial cottages, the warehouses, the more modern buildings on the dock, the new black building belonging to the University of Tasmania.
Grey skies from our balcony this morning.
The same view at lunchtime - what a difference!
I looked at several of the harbour front hotels including MACq01. In the end I decided on the historic Customs House Hotel built in 1846, owned by the Jubb family since 1992. Our first floor balcony room is spread over two floors with a view of the harbour and the new Brooke Street Pier. Twin beds downstairs have become John's personal luggage racks, covers protected of course!
We're in a king bed upstairs.
Before check-in though, we wandered the much-loved and familiar Salamanca markets. Make sure you're here on a Saturday to catch them.
There's excellent quality farm produce, fast food (like oysters!), and all sorts of clothing and craft, as you can see below.
Bruny Island oysters. I'm saving up for when we're on the island....
Gin seems suddenly to be big all over Australia, probably because distilling by small operatives used to be illegal. It was legalised here in 1992, and gin factories such as McHenry's are springing up all over.
Thanks to Instagram's very well-travelled friends, I knew that I must go to Luc. Design at Salamanca. The door proclaimed Missoni Home, Tom Dixon, Armadillo. What a fabulous shop! The most beautifully curated collection of homewares, furniture, toiletries and clothing. I'll be back.
This is the owner Lucy on the right, and Belinda her helper on the left. When I exclaimed over the stock, Lucy said 'Are you Shelley?' All because of the wonderful medium of Instagram!
I walked back along the front row of Salamanca stores - you have to love a second-hand book shop!
Another must-have, these glass licorice allsorts by Emily Whitton!
This is Giovanni (John) Zito who runs Nutpatch chocolates. He was once a teacher, then a hazelnut grower. The natural extension was to make chocolate to go with the nuts, hence the name.
I bought a box of eight chocolates, hand-made and hand-chosen for me by Giovanni.
He's insane about quality, and very proud that his nougat his said to be equal best in the world with the famous Montelimar brand. He exports it to the US. Sixty percent nuts, thirty percent pure Tasmanian honey, farm-fresh egg white, and the smallest amount of sugar and glucose.
I had to have some!
'I'll have a box of nougat too please,' I said.
Giovanni laughed. 'No, sorry, they're only available once a week, on Mondays, and you have to line up at the door. And I limit customers to one box each.'
'I'll be here,' I promised.
Next I visited the Brooke Street Pier. It's a stunningly designed dock building, with a department store of local craft and produce near the entry on the ground floor.
Eateries including the Asian restaurant Aloft fill the rest of the space.
Adored those salt cellar bowls from Art Maven! I want the round scribble one.
Mona's ferries look more like sleek modern troop ships.
Dinner was the tasting menu of eight courses at modern Italian restaurant Fico. Tiny crumpets with herb butter and anchovy, chicken liver mousse on bread bark, this stunning buffalo curd with fig leaf oil, vitello tonnato, tortellini with smoked eggplant, pigeon liver risotto, pork belly with caramelised yoghurt, and a finale of lemon verbena gelato and soft hibiscus meringue.
My favourite was the vitello tonnato, its deep-fried sauce encased in breadcrumbs.
The dining tables were made of Tasmanian woods inlaid with leaf designs. Macrocarpa, king billy, sassafras, you name it.... what workmanship!
A taste of the architectural styles in Hobart's city centre: from art deco to Georgian to Victorian and modern, grand houses to cottages to warehouses.
This amazing chimney is on an apartment block which was once an ordnance store. Tenders to build it were let in 1836 and hundreds of convicts housed in hulks moored at New Wharf quarried the cliffs behind Salamanca, cut the stone and built it.
Every Sunday morning a block in Bathurst Street becomes the Farm Gate Market. Recognised as one of the best in Australia, it has amazing fruit, vegetables, berries, honey, bread and meat. Without exception, all the producers had just dug, picked or made their wares. These are not slick salesmen, but genuine farmers with dirt under their nails.
These potatoes were dug this morning.
This pesto was made yesterday.
King Edward potatoes. Perfect for baking and mashing.
And the flowers!
Later we dropped into the famous Jackman and McRoss bakery, full to the brim with customers having breakfast.
Would they have cream buns????
Yes! Very nice. But the cream was fresh. Probably more popular these days, but if you know my cream bun fetish, you'll know it has to be mock cream. Jacobs Bakery in Brisbane is safe!
On the night of August 29th 1843, Mr Winstanley, an off-duty policeman aged 36 years, was shot while trying to arrest a bushranger named Martin Cash. How sad!
We walked around to Sandy Bay and back past the judges' hut for the Sydney to Hobart race.
I didn't make the shop Grey and Felt this time, but it's on my list for next week.
We drove up Mt Wellington. Heights make me giddy so we settled for a photo three-quarters of the way up.
And on the way back down, we stopped to look at the imposing Cascade Brewery building.
It was burned out in 1967 and rebuilt with the help of many volunteers who couldn't bear the thought of no beer!
Tonight's dinner was at the 20-seat casual restaurant Templo. It's a bit of a hike from the hotel, so we decided to drive. Just before we left the hotel, the heavens opened!
We didn't want to be late, but our car was marooned in the carpark. We were axle-deep in water on the way out. Hunger kept us going!
We were soaked through, but it was so worth it! Templo is casual and fun, with a wine menu much longer than the food. But what food!
John's kingfish and slow baked potato.
I had smoked beetroot and ricotta and almonds. To die for. Add a tossed salad, then an amazing cherry trifle and you'll think you've died and gone to heaven.
We spoke at length to the older man and his son at the next table. They're about to walk the 48 kilometre Three Capes Track over four days.
Later, we also spoke to the couple on our left: a mother and daughter. Guess what they're doing tomorrow? Yes. The Three Capes Walk!
The mother leaned across to me and asked confidentially, 'The younger man you're speaking to, isn't that Chris Taylor from The Chaser?' It was!
And now my friends it's time for bed. John is already asleep. Tomorrow we drive down the Huon Valley to Dover where we'll stay for three nights. Can't wait to take you!
Here are more flowers for you - Tasmanian roses and hollyhocks.
Until I write again, buddies, I wait you.